Submitted by Sue DuMond
Hemp and its cousin marijuana are both species of cannabis sativa but have very distinct and crucial differences. Most notably hemp has very low THC content and high CBD properties (the chemical that does not get you high) and extensive industrial and medicinal uses. Hemp cultivation has a lengthy and industrious history, tracing its earliest beginnings to Mesopotamia in 8000 B.C., where it was harvested for textile fiber. Up until this past century, it was a significant agricultural crop of economic and social value, across multiple continents, providing food, fiber, and nutritional and medicinal needs. The Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper, and even George Washington was reputed to grow it. It fed, clothed and sheltered Americans. During World War II, the Marihuana Tax Law of 1937 was briefly lifted, and farmers were encouraged to grow “Hemp for Victory” to supply fiber for the war efforts. This last boon was short-lived, however, as the tax act was again applied and all cannabis varieties including hemp were strictly regulated. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 struck a final blow to hemp and classified it as a Schedule 1 drug. The recent passage of the Federal Farm Bill in December 2018 has once again legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp.
Heralding this new era of hemp cultivation, potential hemp farmers in Washington state just got a boost from Gov. Jay Inslee’s signing of Senate Bill 5276 on April 26, 2019, declaring hemp “a legal agricultural activity in the state” effective immediately. To that end, the San Juan Island and Lopez Island granges have collaborated to host at their respective granges an educational lecture/class with Bonny Jo Peterson, the executive director of the Industrial Hemp Association of WA titled Hemp: History Legislation Cultivation And The Farm Bill. Peterson is a longtime hemp advocate and researcher based in Washington as well as a current volunteer lobbyist working on hemp legislation written in collaboration with the WSDA, legislators and other hemp industry stakeholders.
Formed shortly after the civil war in 1867, the National Grange is the oldest agricultural advocacy organization in America. Not surprising, San Juan County Grange’s have farmers anxious to sow seeds . Lopez Island Grange member Andre Entermann of Sunnyfield Farm enthused: “I volunteered years ago for Vote Hemp, going door to door, trying to educate people about this incredibly useful crop. The fact that it’s been illegal to grow up until now had always infuriated me. Hemp’s versatility is a no-brainer, and I can’t wait to get a plan going for growing here at Sunnyfield Farm.” Sue DuMond, Lopez Grange Master adds, “Agriculture is not just fruits and vegetables. I hope we can keep an open mind in these changing times. I want to stress Bonny Jo’s talk is about hemp and not marijuana. We will keep our focus on hemp for this evening.”
The Lopez Island event is at 7 p.m. on May 17 at the Lopez Island Grange, free and open to the community.